Dear Prof. Obiri Danso,
I bring you greetings from my very cold corner in my office. Truth be told the National Service is not easy, GHS 559 coupled with 1.20 p fanyogo increment and the “oh buy me pizza” requests and all but that is another topic for another day.
On Sunday 21st October 2019, 9:25pm, I was with a couple of friends at the Royal Park Hotel for a birthday dinner when my good friend Awaakye gave me a call to confirm the news of the demonstration since I am the one who knows whatever goes on in the school. Awaakye’s inquiry was simple; is the demonstration still on since the Dean of Students has sent a message to deter students from taking part, and Prof. that was the first mistake of this demonstration.
At that point the student body had one question in mind, “am I a joke to you?”, they felt they were being intimidated and I believe that heightened the zeal for them to embark on this demonstration. I got to a couple of journalist friends to confirm this like my friend Awaakye was doing since I wasn’t on campus and they gave me positive answers.
On that fateful day, my alarm wouldn’t let me oversleep, woke me up as early as 6am on the day of the demonstration. I had a feeling something serious was coming, I knew this ‘peaceful’ demonstration wouldn’t be that peaceful, because the Katangees and Continentals – the university’s most feared duo – have for a long time harboured the bitterness from their hall conversion saga, the suspension of morale, then several brutalities before the last one that broke the camel’s back. They wanted a chance to “display”, and the fact that the demonstration was going to happen was the second mistake.
The demonstration should not have happened in the first place, but no authority wanted to listen, so …
In my own simple understanding, this was not an ordinary demonstration to these guys, it was payback time. Every KNUST student who will be truthful knew in their hearts that this demo won’t end well if the right measures were not taken to hold back this duo. We were in this same KNUST, where a common inter-halls quiz could trigger a war between this duo; and they were not to be trusted with a demonstration of this magnitude. The authorities should have done everything possible to ensure that this demonstration never happened. Some of us by virtue of our okro ears heard reports of the Dean of Students attempting to meet with the SRC executives, whether true or not, it all failed like me failing my elective maths paper back in St. Augustines College. It was time for them to prove a point to the school and they were going to leave a long-lasting one.
It began with a slow start – (Filled shuttle stations and always busy architecture students)
Prof. truly the demonstration started peacefully. I saw students joining the “free” shuttles to their various lecture halls early in the morning when I left my room to cover this demonstration story. It was like any other Monday morning in KNUST, with filled shuttle stations, architecture students returning from their night studio sessions with their big portfolios and etc – just a regular KNUST Monday morning.
At this point, I assumed most KNUST students have chosen to be on the “we will go to class” side of the debate that happened the night before in whatsapp group pages of many classes. I thought to myself “eii so KNUST students no be family like that?”. I was disappointed walking from Brunei to Hall 7 and catching no glimpse of a demonstration, no student group had even gathered to chat, everyone was just going about their individual businesses. All I saw were policemen patrolling and taking control of the school, it appeared as though the student body had been defeated.
As a journalist, I knew I still had to go round the school, reporting on happenings that morning, regardless. I pressed on and had to rest at the Hall 7 shuttle stop; the soul was willing but the body was weak. Gradually I was coming to a conclusion that I had walked for nothing. I sat down for a while, reflecting how I had missed class all in the name of student revolution. All of a sudden, I heard shouts towards Unity Hall, “the heat was finally coming” I said. The few brave ones who would not follow the others, the few brave ones who were ready to fulfill the purpose of the day to the latter, as wild as my friend Peter who was still gnashing in his final years in KNUST. The boys kept sacking everyone who was attempting to go to class, Prof. Obiri it was not easy, every student who was going to class was deemed an enemy of the cause.
The miracle of Jama and the undying resilience of KNUST’s male halls
This was the first time I was covering a demonstration as a student journalist, I had to play two roles here; the student who is also fighting for fair treatment and the journalist who had to present the event on a neutral ground. As a reporter for KNUST Live, I had to cover every angle of the story, I wanted to try my traditional “put it on your ears and take the picture” without them noticing, but that day was different, it was strange, Katanga and Conti wanted pictures to be taken. – What a time to be a journalist, I said, that was when I noticed this would not be a joke. Prof., I must say at this point that, the numbers were not enough. (I say the numbers were not enough just to reiterate that this demonstration could have been stopped in its early stages, but i guess there was no such plan to settle this amicably).
We needed more numbers and we got it eventually.
Just as we got to the forecourt of Unity Hall, the morale started; the jama songs kept the spirit high and there was a miracle. Prof, guess what? The numbers had doubled, thanks to the Jama Miracles Ministry International which by then was in full effect. A rare moment of morale on a Monday morning in KNUST, only went on to prove that – the boys were ready for this! This was not a Conti or Katanga affair but an all KNUST students affair. They needed the numbers to support, the numbers to send a strong message and they finally had it.
We are moving!! We are moving!!
Anytime the jama fizzled out for brief second, you would hear ‘We are moving’ and then jama would come back on with more fuel. Occasionally i pondered “where are we moving to”? Alas, we got to the ‘Engineering Gate’ where Kelvin Sah – the SRC president addressed the crowd. We had the numbers now and the message (was ready to be sent across). I believe that was the third mistake, the numbers! the together we stand, divided we fall rule worked here. The campaign had been joined by off-campus residents, and now all those who ‘sold-out’ the demonstration for the classroom had a change of mind.
The numbers were high and that was all (we) needed to go in strong. At this point, (the administration) tried as they could, would not be able to salvage the situation. I also realised that the students were riding on a perception that the administration could not possibly sack all these people assuming they were caught on camera. This perception, accurate or the less fueled the movement and that was the only guarantee for the students to proceed. This could not have been possible without the numbers. Thinking about the possibilities of numbers reminded me of a story I was told in my first year in Katanga, where some residents of KNUST’s premier male hall (University Hall, Katanga), walked over to Unity Hall, despite the fierce rivalry to retrieve a seized drum.
The SRC president spoke; the boys started breaking anything on sight – everywhere was a mess.
The SRC President addressed the teeming mob. The apex student governing body backing this activity only meant one thing – WE WERE FINALLY READY TO BE HEARD, BY HOOK OR DESTRUCTION. The damage began, as though everyone had received a ‘Break anything you see’ command in their minds. The route for this demonstration from what I heard as the original plan which was dubbed peaceful demonstration, was to use Mecca Road, through to the administration block, and there the petition would be presented.
At this point, I had honestly lost count of how many mistakes made by the administration, but the mistakes were far from ending. Everything changed when this next mistake happened and we will get into it shortly. For reasons unknown, the plan of the demonstration changed – “Change of original plan, initiate plan B”. The boys had spotted some police men lurking around the “Agric Junction” road and that was the best time for them to get their revenge for all the intimidation suffered thus far.
The “yensuro koti” chant started, I was still on my phone updating the timelines of my online audience via KNUST LIVE, of happenings at this moment and just when I was about to go live, the mistake happened – A policeman fired a warning shot.
The shot, that changed everything.
When the personnel from the Ghana Police fired a warning shot, I thought to myself, what should the policeman have done? Thousands of angry students mobbing towards you, a mob which was obviously not ready to be convinced by sweet words or any other alternatives but weapons, available to the police.
Unfortunately for him, there was one student who was not perturbed by the gun, he saw no danger not even death. He moved towards the policeman like a student who was late for an exam – very brisk and not ready to fail. His act of bravery was rewarded by fervent chants from his cohorts and onlookers, they were charged up, ready to move through bullets and fire arms just to arrive at the administration.
— KNUST Live (@KNUST_Live) October 22, 2019
The police sensed their seriousness, it was now clear these students had no breaks, they would not stop, and there ‘PEACE WAS CANCELED OFF THE MENU’. Verily I say unto you, Prof. the policeman did not waste time at all, he had to run for his dear life. At this point the police was violent, the student had to be violent too, and the whole world heard about KNUST on this day.
Like we say on twitter, it ended in tears for the KNUST police and all other security forces. Not a single “Adarkwa Police” was on this big KNUST campus, after the student turned violent. Eyewitness report indicated that their only option was to change their uniforms and run for their lives. At this point there was no security force to keep the students calm, even the “Medikal looking” policemen who later came in to help control the situation could not help, the students rather took selfies with them.
Nothing was the same and I witnessed every single action Prof.
The students were angry, we all wanted to make a point, except the young man who took the trophy from the administration, the boy who took the carpet grass, or the famous Joy News “gye wo two” boy. They came in for the fun and not the demonstration but that is just on a lighter note.
Here comes the MVP's on that day.
— KNUST Live (@KNUST_Live) October 22, 2019
I had questions, I was not alone, people had questions too.
“Do you know we will have to close down the school?”, I heard the police commander tell the SRC President at the administration. Kelvin Sah looked worried, I felt bad for him, is this what he planned? Did he anticipate things turning out like this? The student body on the other hand were praising him for being the hero – their hero. One guy came to lie prostrate and thanked him like a King. Was he the hero? Did he take the right decisions? He was the popular man at that moment and I think he deserved it but Prof guess what? The same students that praised him bashed him when the aftermath of the demonstration started affecting them, clear case of “y3ne wo sre kwa y3n d) wo”.
Truth be told, I had goosebumps at a point on the demonstration day, why? Because I was in KNUST when students came together to tell the school administration one thing, IT IS ENOUGH. We were all over the news that day, we were trending hot on every media platform, most calls were made to students in, parents were calling their wards to ask for confirmation of the exaggerated version of the incident, “side” girlfriends and boyfriends in University of Ghana and beyond were calling to check up on their “sweetwuns”.
A Year On, I am No More a Student but I Am Still Scared For The Student Body.
The Unthinkable Unfolds Before Our Eyes,
This Was Not Meant To Happen,
This Could Not Happen,
This Was Happening.
A Peaceful Demonstration Turned Into Something Else.
— KNUST Live (@KNUST_Live) October 22, 2019
But today, I recount this and I laugh about it, that day was scary. It’s a year after this incident and I still have these things coming back to me like it was just yesterday. I can go on and on, talk about how students faced the military men with jama, and how it was all a sight to behold – Jama Miracles Ministry International to the rescue once again. Would you want to know about the “police chase” by the military men at Brunei?
It all seemed hilarious but we all had to leave the next day, whether you had money or not, and that wasn’t hilarious. That was when the situation ceased to be funny and from that time it was confusion all over. The aftermath was not good; the back and forth by the government and the university staff – was a lot to chew on. The pressure final year students felt when they resumed, overwhelmed with project engagements and normal academic work. IT WAS ALL, VERY HARD.
In all of this, I wish we do not repeat the last but greatest mistake, not listening to the student body. This demonstration was a build-up from earlier incidents where students were brutalized by “Adarkwa” and nothing was done about it. I remember on that night the young man was brutalized very well, one “Adarkwa” entered the barbering shop at Katanga with a taser, I asked myself if he was there to tase his hairline? That was simply unacceptable.
Way Forward – We Need A Listening Student Administration.
The student needs to be heard, the student deserves it. It is sad that we ignore students and make an attempt when things are in a bad state and there is nothing to be done – A listening school administration will do us all a lot of good. I know you love us Prof., you really care about us but let’s create systems where the voice of the student will be heard. I know a couple of students who were queried by the school authority as to why they published certain articles which throws light on the plight of the school. The authority was ready to take every chance available to students to speak and be heard and that was where things went wrong.
I love you Prof and your style, I wish it didn’t end up in the demonstration, personally, it was more of evil than good in the end but at least we got some attention which was channeled in the right direction. I hope we learn from our mistakes and move on better. I know the SRC’s PR made the whole situation look like you were the devil. In the end, truth they say stands tall. After all is said and done we will remember you as the VC who made KNUST “beautiful” and whose administration triggered a demonstration.
CREDIT : Aaron Richard Eshun.